Where’s The Soul In Faustus: That Damned Woman?

Faustus: That Damned Woman, Lyric Hammersmith ★★☆☆☆

By Matthew Holder Last edited 29 months ago

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Where’s The Soul In Faustus: That Damned Woman? Faustus: That Damned Woman, Lyric Hammersmith 2
Photo: Manuel Harlan

A good play of ideas should connect to the body and soul of the characters on stage. For a play which places the worth of a ‘soul’ centre stage, Faustus: That Damned Woman, is a peculiarly arid and soulless experience. It’s frustrating as there are moments when it soars and momentarily offers a much richer dramatic experience.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

It starts like a pastiche Crucible with an accused witch and a bunch of screaming peasants blessed by religious paranoia. When humble maid, Johanna Faustus (Jodie McNee), sees that God is unjust and starts to summon Lucifer instead, she gets more than she bargained for. In fact, as it’s the story of Faust, she makes a bargain and in exchange for her soul buys herself 144 years of infinite powers on earth. Plus a new companion, Mephistopheles (in a dry performance by Danny Lee Wynter).

Photo: Manuel Harlan

From there we are catapulted from medieval to Victorian, to 20th century and to our own digital world. Finally, in keeping with the fashion for apocalyptic narratives, it ends in a world that more resembles the muddy past. Though its themes of how our desire for absolute knowledge and good intentions can lead to destruction are well illustrated in the image of humanity uploaded to the digital cloud and deleted, the play never sits still for long, with Faustus careering from avenging angel to do-gooder.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

We go on a huge journey through time, yet feel like nothing has really happened. When you deal with the devil, light and shade is more interesting. Though McNee puts in a strong performance and a few moments of humour with Wynter, Faustus is so relentlessly tiresome, one-note and monotonous that we instinctively resist its lessons.

Faustus: That Damned Woman, Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith, W6 OQL. Tickets from £15, until 22 February 2020.

Last Updated 31 January 2020